Ashley Finding His Niche

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – Brandon Ashley doesn't have to do it all.

A 6-foot-9, 200-pound forward from Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd, Ashley plays for the Oakland Soldiers – one of the AAU circuit's most talented teams.

The Soldiers have three players in's class of 2011 top 100 – Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson and Jabari Brown.

Ashley, who is the No. 5 ranked player in the class of 2012, views the opportunity to team with some of the best players in California, and the country, as an honor.

"I love playing with so many great players," he said. "It's just fun. It takes so much pressure off me. You don't always have to be the No. 1 guy on the team, you can just sit back and let the game come to you."

Soldiers head coach Derrick Artis said his team's talented and experienced roster is a great resource for Ashley.

"Him being one of the younger kids, he takes a lot of tutelage from Kyle (Wiltjer) who is an older big man," he said. "He's been playing with Jabari (Brown) and some older more experienced AAU guys. Brandon is just a guy who's trying to fit in and find his niche. They've taken him under the wing and showed him what he needs to do."

In the first game of the 2010 EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam, Ashley's team drew some of college basketball's most recognizable coaches. One of which was UNC's Roy Williams.

"It's exciting," Ashley said of playing in front of coaches. "You know that you're one of the top guys in the country and these coaches are here to see you."

The Tar Heels first placed a call to Ashley in early June. Since then, there hasn't yet been additional phone communication between Ashley and the UNC staff. That hasn't changed his feelings about Carolina though.

"I like the area," Ashley said of Chapel Hill. "It's real peaceful and it's real chill. UNC is a nice school and they always, for the most part, have a good team. It's something to look forward to."

Artis said Ashley has offers from schools across the country including Kansas, Maryland, California, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona.

He also said the school Ashley signs with will be getting a versatile and talented player.

"He's a very long and athletic power forward," he said. "He has some wing skills, but right now he's just young. He's got all the potential in the world to be a really, really good kid."

Ashley knows exactly what he needs to work on to reach that potential.

"I have to get stronger and finish better," he said. "I get to the rack and I don't finish sometimes. So, I just have to work on that."

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